JUST WAR AND JUST PEACE

3.1 The Sacrifice of Isaac

4.2 Pacifism and holy war

The just war theory was born out of the discussion about the use of violence: when is a country allowed to use violence? When is a country allowed to go to war? These questions are centuries old and have a long history of origin within the Catholic Church.
When talking about war and peace, different positions can be taken. Two examples are: ‘pacifism’ and ‘holy war’.

ASSIGNMENT. Connect the correct term with the correct explanation.

Pacifism

It is an attitude that strives for peace and always resists war and violence. There is always an attitude of non-violence.

Holy War

War waged based on religious beliefs. war is waged by a divine obligation, or in defense of ‘holy’ territory.

Pacifism is an attitude that strives for peace and always resists war and violence. There is always an attitude of non-violence. Violence and war can never be good!

According to the holy war tradition, the use of violence is acceptable to achieve certain religious goals. This concept is often seen as the opposite of pacifism.

ASSIGNMENT. Think about the vision of pacifism. What do you think of this attitude? Why?

4.3 The just war theory

Pacifism and the theory of holy war are two extreme attitudes. We are now going to look at a possible intermediate position in which the use of violence is permitted based on certain conditions:‘the just war theory’.

What does ‘righteous(ness)’ mean? And what does ‘unrighteous(ness)’ mean? Righteous(ness) means ‘the right, honest thing’. Being ‘just’ means being honest and trustworthy. Unrighteous(ness) is just the opposite: something that is unfair or incorrect. An example of this is poverty: it is an injustice that certain children in the world have to go hungry, while other children have enough, or even more than enough.

Throughout history, a tradition has been developed and further elaborated according to context, time and place, about the use of violence and war. This development was given the name ‘just war theory’. The use of violence is allowed based on certain conditions.
It is important to remember that ‘the’ just war theory does not exist. It is a tradition through time in which, depending on the time and place, answers were given about the use of violence and war. Discussions about the conditions of ‘a just war’ are of all times. So, this theory can also change through time, even today.
How can we understand this just war theory? Does the just war theory want to allow the use of violence and war? Does this theory make war, military intervention and violence ‘normal’?

The just war theory is a theory that defines certain conditions (depending on context, time and place) for entering into armed conflict and for justifying the use of violence. These conditions are meant to avoid war and violence as much as possible.

In sum, the just war theory wants to prevent and contain war and violence as much as possible. It gives an overview of conditions to examine in concrete circumstances whether the use of violence and war can be justified.
In general, the following conditions are set today for starting an armed conflict within the just war theory. Only when all these six conditions are addressed in a certain situation, is warfare ‘justified’:

1. Just cause: war may only be waged for a just cause, and not out of self-interest. There must be a thorough and just reason to go to war. War must be aimed at restoring peace.
2. Right intention: the intention behind the war must be right and fair. It must be aimed at a fair and just goal: the restoration of peace. There must be no unjust ulterior motives: for example, saving one’s own economy or conquering a new piece of land.
3. Last resort: violence and war should be avoided as much as possible. War can only be a last resort. One must first try all other non-violent means(s) to solve a conflict.
4. Probability of success: if one wants to go to war, there must be a reasonable chance of achieving the goal: peace. Soldiers, but also civilians, must not suffer and die unnecessarily.
5. Proportionality: the degree of violence must not exceed the evil to be combated. The means used must be in proportion to the aim pursued by the war.
6. Competent authority: war may only be entered and waged by a lawful authority. An authority is a recognized government, the political authority of a community that is responsible for the welfare of its people.

ASSIGNMENT. Read the six conditions of the just war theory and solve the following question:
Do you think these conditions are enough to avoid war? Why do/do you not?

What does the Catholic Church think about this?

From what perspective is this theory viewed in the Catholic Church? Within the Catholic Church, this theory still has a great impact on thinking about war and peace, both in the past and today.

For the Catholic Church, war, military intervention and violence must be an ongoing and disturbing thought. Counteracting all kinds of injustice and oppression is also a first and foremost concern. Christians must not only prevent violence and war as much as possible, but they must also stand up for the rights, freedoms, and welfare of victims of violence.
For the Catholic Church it is not about just war, but about just peace! It is also about building a just society where violence and oppression do not exist.

ASSIGNMENT. How can the just war theory be understood in the Catholic tradition?

ASSIGNMENT. Read the statements below and choose the one that appeals to you the most. Do you agree or disagree with this explanation? Why do you agree or disagree?

• “War is never justified.”
• “Peace can only exist if there is also war.”
• “Never do anything in a war that will make reconciliation impossible afterwards.”
• “A world without violence is not realistic.”
• “Violence begins or ends with yourself.”
• “Even in times of peace, it is important for a country to invest in weapons.”
• “Risking your own life for strangers in a foreign country is pointless.”
• “The just war theory allows the use of violence.”

4.4 summary

In this diagram, you can find a summary of the most important concepts from this module.

2.4 GLOSSARY

Holy war
When talking about the idea of a ‘holy war’, it means that the use of violence for certain religious purposes is accepted. This concept is often seen as the opposite of (radical) pacifism.

Pacifism
Pacifism is an attitude of non-violence that rejects all forms of violence and war. The main goal in this vision is peace, which can only be achieved by peaceful means and an attitude of non-violence.

Just war
The just war theory is a theory that defines certain conditions (depending on context, time and place) for entering into armed conflict and for justifying the use of violence. These conditions are meant to avoid war and violence as much as possible.

Just peace
Violence should not only be postponed. We must also build a just society where violence and oppression are absent. Moreover, during conflicts, one should not only think about resolving the conflict itself, but also about its consequences, so that a lasting peace is possible. This is the concept of just peace.

Righteous/Unrighteous
Righteous(ness) means ‘the right, honest thing’. Being ‘just’ means being honest and trustworthy. Unrighteous(ness) is just the opposite: something that is unfair or incorrect. An example of this is poverty: it is an injustice that certain children in the world have to go hungry, while other children have enough, or even more than enough.

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